This year alone, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly a third of them will one day lose their battle against this devastating disease. In addition, more than two thousand men will meet the same fate. It is the most common form of cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. It stands to reason that all of us should have a better understanding of the breast cancer signs, symptoms, and treatments so that we are better equipped on how to identify risk factors and signs that can help us get the treatment we need as early as possible.
Research has shown that the best weapon in fighting breast cancer is time. The earlier the disease is caught the better one’s chances of recovery. As we grow in our understanding of breast cancer, the survival rate for most women is improving. Right now, the average survival rate is quite high with only one in 37 victims actually losing their fight.
The Symptoms in Breast Cancer Signs, Symptoms and Treatments:
Quite often the first symptoms of breast cancer often go unnoticed because there is no physical pain or discomfort that would ring any alarm bells. In fact, the initial signs of the disease are often only apparent when the breasts are given a visual inspection. These signs usually appear in the form of a lump or the thickening of the tissue in the armpit or in the breast itself. Doctors strongly recommend that women get to know the look and feel of their breasts when they are healthy so that they can more quickly identify any changes as soon as they appear.
There may also be a pitting or redness of the skin in the affected area giving a dimpled appearance that looks more like the peel of an orange. This could be accompanied by a rash that forms on or around the nipple area. Others may find a change in the size of the breast, a sunken or inverted nipple, or even peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin. As the condition progresses, a bloody discharge from the nipple or pain felt in the armpits around the breast area may appear. However, it is important to understand that when these signs begin to appear the cancer has already been at work in the breast for some time.
In learning about breast cancer, signs, symptoms, and treatments every case can be different so any change in the physical appearance of one’s breasts should be viewed as an indication that something might be wrong. While the symptoms listed here are the most common found in the majority of women, there is no way to identify all the possible changes that may be an indication of this disease. Even though most of these signs are not definitive proof of breast cancer these changes should serve as a warning sign. The sooner you can get to a doctor and be checked out the better the chances of finding an effective treatment that could help you beat the disease.
Breast Cancer Stages:
There are actually five stages of breast cancer, each one progressively worsening the condition. Ideally, being diagnosed in the earlier stages gives you the best prognosis for a full recovery.
- Stage 0: Sometimes referred to as the ductile carcinoma stage, this is when the cancer cells are just forming and have had no chance to spread. They are located in the ducts of the breasts and have not grown to the point where they have infected surrounding tissue.
- Stage 1: At stage 1, the tumor has begun to grow and can be as large as two centimeters across. At this point, it still has not spread to the lymph nodes and remains contained in the ducts.
- Stage 2: The size of the cancer has grown to beyond two centimeters across and is beginning to spread into the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: The tumor can be up to five centimeters across and is now affecting other areas of the breast.
- Stage 4: At this point, the cancer is now beginning to affect other areas beyond the breast. It may be found in the bones, liver, lungs, and even the brain.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors:
No one really knows what causes breast cancer but studies have shown that there are some women who are at a higher risk of the disease than others. Age is one factor. It appears that the risk increases as you get older. At age 20, the risk level is only 0.6% while at age 70 the percentage increases as much as 3.84%.
Another risk factor is genetics. Those who have family members who have had to deal with breast cancer are often at a higher risk than those that do not.
Studies have also shown that exposure to hormone replacements like estrogen pills taken for extended periods of time puts women at a much higher risk of developing this type of cancer. This often happens when women begin their menopausal stage, which could also be connected with the age factor listed above.
The Treatments in Breast Cancer Signs, Symptoms and Treatments:
Once diagnosed, it is strongly recommended that treatment begin very early. The type of treatment provided will depend largely on the stage of breast cancer, the age, and overall health. Some women are more sensitive to certain medications and treatments than others.
However, the more our knowledge of this disease increases the more options are available to speed up the recovery process. Treatment can come in a simple form like hormone therapy, a targeted drug therapy or it can be more invasive in forms like radiation, chemotherapy, or even surgery.
The bottom line is that the earlier the diagnosis is made the better the survival rate. Women diagnosed with a Stage 0 cancer can fully expect a 100% 5-year survival rate while the same woman diagnosed at Stage 4 can only expect to see a 22% survival rate.
These statistics very clearly point out that the first battle against breast cancer has to be understanding breast cancer signs, symptoms, and treatments and identifying it early. Since most of the initial symptoms are those that affect the shape and appearance of the breasts knowing what one’s healthy breasts look like make it easy to identify even the most subtle of changes that could indicate the presence of cancer.